By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
In defence of contemporary democratic systems.
There’s nothing worse than listening to disgruntled people rant about politics only for them to conclude that they have casually removed themselves from being in any way engaged with the basis of modern democracy; the vote.
Russell Brand has spent the past week in a beard-off with Jeremy Paxman and writing/editing a guest edition of the New Statesman, exploring the theme of REVOLUTION. Along with Noel Gallagher and a few other celebrity cronies, he used the platform to shout about how crap our political system is and talk up the idea of a ‘spiritual revolution’, raising some valid and interesting issues that may have been missed by anyone who has spent the past ten years living under a rock.
I’m no great advocate of politics or politicians in the UK, but I think the idea of toppling a democratic system that – despite being wistfully cast aside by Brand – has taken many years to build and cost countless lives because you have some sketchy vision of spiritual utopia is narrow-minded.
Instead of debating what form a revolution would take in the future, perhaps we debate why revolution hasn’t happened in the past. Is it, for example, because people aren’t engaged in business and politics that those who are can get away with being naughty? If so, in what way is abstaining from politics and choosing to not understand the workings of our economic system a solution?
Importance of understanding
This newspaper believes in making politics, business and economics digestible. You won’t hear us, for example, talking about “nihilistic narratives of individualism” or “spherical ecosystems suspended in infinite space upon which there are billions of carbon-based lifeforms”, by which Brand means “a world with life on it”.
An interesting Henry Ford quote picked from his article shouted “problem” to Brand, but shouts “solution” to me: “It is well that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
Here’s a revolution to shout about; instead of toppling political systems, people become actively engaged in how they work. Because politics is cumbersome and business is complex, people choose not to bother. As admirable as Brand has been over the past week, there’s an element of “stick it to the man” that actually means “I can’t be arsed”.
Importance of voting
For those who have forgotten the value of democracy I suggest looking at the loss of life during the ongoing Middle East uprising or the dictatorships across Africa that have crushed the life out of their nations. Congo, for example, is one the most resource-rich countries in the world yet is in ruins largely because of a political void which we take for granted in the UK. In Egypt, Syria and Tunisia the search for political structure has destroyed cities and lifestyles.
Trade Unions are a form of political movement which Brand recognises in one of several acts of hypocrisy. As he bemoans the starving children in Africa, he praises “the formation of the NHS, holiday pay, sick pay and the weekend”, all achievements of peaceful trade union action.
Trade unions, like the vote, are a part of a democratic system. For the working class, they are one of the few institutions in which active participation can be found. But as for the electorate, there are excuses aplenty not to fight for our interests.
Usually it’s because people feel insignificant, but that group of insignificant people become significantly more significant when they decide to speak up. Others feel let down by politicians, but forget politicians are accountable to the electorate. Billy Connelly said “I will not vote because it encourages them”. What he should have said is “I do not vote, and therefore it encourages them”.
The point is that there is a democratic system that we can choose to either partake in or let pass by. As people die across the world fighting to be part of a democratic system such as ours – which is by no means perfect, but has the foundations which could one day allow it to be – there’s really little excuse to not take an interest. Stop talking of democracy as if it was forced upon us. We fought, we won, and those who suffer the most are the ones who claim indifference to the fact that it ever happened in the first place.